BROOKINGS – Jay Owenhouse, also known as “The Authentic Illusionist,” is coming to Brookings Saturday, and he’s bringing his world-famous act that has been named as the best touring family show in Asia.
The doors at the Swiftel Center open at 6:30 p.m., and the show will start at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices range from $29.50 to $69.50 and can be purchased at the Swiftel Center box office, by phone at 800-745-3000 and online at www.ticketmaster.com.
Owenhouse got his start in magic at age 4, after his parents hired a magician for his sister’s birthday party.
When he was 11, captivated by a woman he saw levitating in mid-air on TV, he had his mother drive to the nearest magic shop to buy a magic book. Owenhouse then performed his first show three years later to a third-grade class.
Magic was a hobby and a passion for him. He also fell in love with tigers.
In high school, he became friends with a tiger trainer in the San Francisco area at Marine World/Africa USA, now known as Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.
“That was really my first exposure to tigers, and as I had the chance to be around tigers I just loved them,” Owenhouse said.
The Brookings show will take the audience through a wide variety of illusions that also include his Bengal tigers. Shekinah is a royal white tiger, and her sister, Sheena, is a standard orange tiger.
Owenhouse has a private sanctuary in Bozeman, Mont., which opened in 1996. He said his tigers love to travel and be a part of the show. Since he only performs on weekends, it gives the animals plenty of time to be normal tigers.
“It’s like organized play for them. I only take them out 10-12 days a month. If it was 30 days a month, it wouldn’t be much a life,” he said. Owenhouse wants to give the tigers at least 18 days in the sanctuary for variety and so they enjoy travel even more.
Before the tigers and weekend traveling, Owenhouse had decided to take a different route in life. He went to college at Montana State University, where he studied psychology. After receiving his undergraduate degree, he pursued a graduate degree to become a psychologist.
“I kind of had an epiphany one day and thought, ‘I’m not really sure I want to spend the rest of my life being a psychologist.’”
He then decided he would move on and work with the two things he loved: the art of illusion and animals. He quit graduate school to become a professional magician, performing in shopping malls on weekends.
While going to school at MSU, Owenhouse met his future wife, Susan. They married in 1987 and had four children together.
After a successful tour in Japan, Susan developed a rare immune disease called sclerosing cholangitis. Bile ducts carry digestive liquid bile from the liver to the small intestine. Inflammation from the disease causes scars within the bile ducts, making the ducts hard and narrow and gradually causing liver damage.
Awaiting a liver transplant in Seattle, Susan’s condition worsened. She died in April 2009.
“It was devastating for our family and faith,” he said.
After taking a few years off from performing, Owenhouse was approached by his children. “They said, ‘Hey, let’s put this back together and do this as a family.’” That changed the show not only for him but for his children, too. Instead of just traveling to the shows, they became partners.
The four children have now reshaped the show, each offering input from the lighting to what kind of music to include.
“It’s kind of the representation of the whole family. It’s a show that has been created not only by me but by my youngest daughter all the way up to my oldest son.”
“Dare to Believe!” is what Owenhouse’s family decided to name the show. It uses illusions as a metaphor to inspire people to believe that anything is possible and to take people back to the feeling they once had as children.
“Kids from kindergarten ’til fourth grade have this incredible sense of wonder and optimism about life. I think as we get older we get a few disappointments and start to dream less and become less optimistic.” Owenhouse said that he loves the idea of magic and illusions making people feel something they normally don’t.
The act will be a family friendly show and puts the audience in an intimate setting, with live tigers and magic up close and personal. One of the tricks that will be performed is a recreation of one of the greatest escapes created by Harry Houdini.
“What’s fun about the show is that it is a little different every night we do it, so it’s never exactly the same.”